Wild Cards Volume XVIII — Inside Straight
Twenty-eight extraordinary people — Aces — sign onto a reality TV show. These young heroes have never really been heroic, but each has a superhuman skill. They all initially belong to one of four suits while competing in staged contests as only LA-LA land could dream up with the losers being voted off the show until, at last, the greatest American Hero is left standing. As the weeks go by, those left standing are stunned by sickening events in the Middle East. Their inane challenges look silly when compared to those unpowered people risking their lives. Stunningly several contestants, including Jonathan Hive, leave the set to become real heroes even knowing they may die as a result.
The art was by illustrator Michael Komarck. It features the German ace, Lohengrin.
The boats chugged out from the east bank, dark marks in the sun-bright water. Hardhat and Sobek squatted by the shore. The croc-headed joker hunkered down, his hand shading his eyes.
"This could be a problem," Sobek said. "If they reach the island-"
"Those dick-lickers have about as much chance of getting out here as I've got of ass-fucking Mother Teresa," Hardhat said cheerfully. "Watch this shit."
Inside Straight contains the following stories:
|"Jonathan Hive"||Daniel Abraham||Written in blog post format, this story follows the observations of Jonathan Tipton-Clarke, a blogger who joins the reality tv show American Hero. Tipton-Clarke, who chooses the ace name "Jonathan Hive" but is more often known simply as Bugsy, has the power to transform into a swarm of insects.|
|"Dark of the Moon"||Melinda M. Snodgrass||Lilith arrives in Iraq on the eve of Egypt joining the Caliphate intent on assassinating the Caliph.|
|"Chosen Ones"||Carrie Vaughn||Earth Witch joins the reality show, American Hero, and meets her new companions, Team Hearts.|
|"Looking for Jetboy"||Michael Cassutt||Stuntman, an ace who can regenerate, competes for in the show for Team Clubs.|
|"Metagames"||Caroline Spector||Team Diamonds members, sore from constantly losing, manipulate each other to determine who is voted off.|
|"Star Power"||Melinda M. Snodgrass||Team Hearts faces the secret ace, Noel Mathews on their challenge. Meanwhile, Jonh Fortune recovers an amulet that was given to Peregrine by the Living Gods while she was in Egypt during the events of "Aces Abroad". The conflict in Egypt between nats and jokers intensifies.|
|"Wakes the Lion"||John Jos. Miller||This story is about John Fortune and Sekhmet. Two very different beings; they must strive to work together in order to fight for what is right.|
|"Crusader"||George R.R. Martin||Lohengrin chooses to defend a joker pagan cult in southern Egypt against religious zealots.|
|"The Tin Man’s Lament"||Ian Tregillis||The aces choose to leave their game show to assist Lohenhrin in his defense of the Egyptian jokers.|
|"Incidental Music for Heroes"||S. L. Farrell||The aces defend the Egyptian jokers in their showdown against the Djinn.|
|"Blood on the Sun"||Melinda M. Snodgrass||Lilith works to manipulate the leadership of the Caliphate.|
Segments of the stories, “Jonathan Hive”, “Chosen Ones”, and “Looking for Jetboy” continue between other stories of this volume.